Taxes? I Know What Lord Grantham Feels Like.

taxreturn

“Well, this sucks. . . . Again.”

This week, in between surgery (“This hospital jello is well-known throughout the entire VA system.”  “Really?”  “No, not really.”) and refereeing (“Great job.  You just cost us the game.  You suck.”), I found time to actually complete our taxes for 2012. 

My week just went from bad to worse. 

To quote myself, “I might be dumb, but I’m not stupid.” 

Well, I suppose that’s true most of the time, except when it comes to figuring out our taxes or, more appropriately, how much in taxes we should be deducting from paychecks throughout the year.  No matter how hard I try, I seem to screw it up.  For the past several years, we’ve consistently been required to write the IRS a check by April 15th. 

Not a lot of fun. 

And to make matters worse, I have had to write the State of California a check for the past few years, as well. 

It’s known as “The Full Monty” of taxation in our house. 

Now I’m not about to launch into a rant regarding taxes in this country, government inefficiencies, and the looming Sequestration. 

Far from it. 

I have travelled to many countries around the world, and in my very simple way of looking at things, I believe we take an awful lot for granted here, much of which is (I think) paid for through taxes. 

Maybe not, but that’s how I rationalize it all.

I suspect I have a relatively complicated tax situation compared to many.  But to be honest, I’ve been using TurboTax for longer than a decade, and it makes everything relatively painless; except the bottom line, of course. 

Figuring out taxes online is almost too easy, I suspect.  Audit defense?  Sure.  It’s only another thirty bucks.  Convenience fee for using a credit card to pay my tax bill?  Why not?  I’m already getting screwed here anyway — I might as well get some airline miles out of the deal, right? 

And so it goes. 

It doesn’t seem all that long ago when I was able to use a 1040EZ to file.  In reality, it was a long time ago, back when I used to complete my taxes using an actual pencil and paper. 

And the more I think about it, the more I realize I don’t do much figuring on paper at all anymore.  For instance, I used to spend literally hours and hours trying to balance the checkbook.  It was a task made much more difficult because my wife and I shared the same register.  It was primarily a painful effort, but I always fervently hoped for the Monopoly-inspired “Bank Error in Your Favor” — wishful thinking that we made some kind of mathematical mistake that would result in hundreds of dollars of “found money.”

More typically I would discover we had forty or so dollars less than what we thought.

Bummer. 

If I follow my own steps back to college when I was really, really poor, not being able to balance my checking account became a matter of life and, well, eating on the weekends.  I used to drive myself nuts trying to figure out why I couldn’t reconcile the numbers.  And having two or three “extra” dollars meant at least one meal at McDonald’s — quite a treat for me then.  The dining hall was closed on Saturday and Sunday, so my options were limited and mainly hotplate driven.   

Meanwhile, jumping out of the “Way-Back Machine” and focusing on today, I recognize it has now been years — yes, years, since I’ve even tried to balance our checking account.  When our monthly statement arrives in the mail (we don’t have electronic delivery, it seems), I simply hand it to my wife, as I do with all of our bills these days.  You see, I turned this crap over to her many moons ago.

Quite frankly, I don’t know if she takes the time to balance it, and I guess I don’t care.  I feel like we have spent much of our adult lives pinching pennies at every opportunity, and as long as we pay the mortgage, invest in the future, contribute to charity, and take care of our other recurring costs, I don’t know how figuring out the bank account to the last penny makes much of a difference in the quality of our lives now.

That might change, however, if I lose my job and we find ourselves retracing our steps from thirty years ago.  But at least I can take some consolation that recycling bottles pays better these days than it did in 1980. 

I can also dream really big and hope that Daughter will become an internationally famous author, making millions of dollars, and remembering to support Mom and Dad once she makes it into Oprah’s Book Club. 

Then, again, I think the focus on cats severely limits her potential audience.  I suppose we’ll have to wait and see. 

And so, at the end of the day, we will continue to exercise Plan C — lottery tickets. 

Filling in those little ovals on the pick sheet sure beats balancing the checkbook any day!

- Dad

 

About these ads

I Only Drink Fancy Water or, I Drink Therefore I Am

It’s true. I’m too good for tap water, even filtered water has that lower-class aftertaste I so despise. “Fancy water” is a catch-all I use to classify any bottled water that has more than three ingredients on the label other than “water”. Why fancy water? It just makes me feel better and encourages me to make fancier choices throughout the day.

Fancy.

A beverage infused with the sweat of the gods of Mount Olympus!

I should paint my nails… with a gold-leaf overlay and a miniature replica of the Sistine Chapel ceiling on each nail.

I’m ready for a snack… of pickled shark fat cubes with truffle oil. Mm, shark fat. (Rich people totally eat that. (?))

I really need to work out… how I’m going to fit all of these golden rings on my fingers. 

I should make a collage from all of these recycled magazines… so my menservants will have Christmas presents. (Side note: I had to actually look up the plural of “manservant”… #pretendrichpeopleproblems) 

But let’s get real for a second: I know I’m a poor college student. It’s nothing to be ashamed of; nay, there is dignity in the way I refuse social outings in exchange for re-counting the change jingling around in the bottom of my purse (I call it the national anthem of poor people). However, that doesn’t stop me from pretending I was born into great wealth from time to time. Hence, the buying of fancy water.

I will never go back to Poor People Ale aka “water”. Where are the bubbles? Where are the herbal infusions? Where is the label that says, “collected spittle of the Queen of England”? Nowhere to be found and therefore, impotable.

Mmmmm.

Three angels died from dehydration to make this. They donated too many tears.

Also, just so you know, the founder of this particular company (“Dr. Ayala”) has four job descriptions: Pediatrician, Artist, Innovative Cook, and Founder. I kind of want to meet this guy because I imagine he is some sort of Mary Poppins of Beverages. Makes me thirsty just thinking about it.

My marketing campaign pitch for fancy water beverages: “ORGANIC WATER. It’s expensive, yes, but those student loans don’t need to be repaid quite yet.”

- Daughter

Things I Said in Bars — Are You Kidding Me?

Fat Tire

That looks expensive. Don’t you have anything in paper cups?

Senior Editor’s Note: This post and its contents have not been verified for their veracity. Furthermore, I am very conversational, just not with losers, Dad! I don’t waste my wit on the weak and ineffectual. I make fun of the people who are asking for it. And at the very least, my goal is to make people laugh in bars and steer them away from the usual, “So, come here often?” Because in what boring world is that ever a good way to start a great conversation? (Never, Dad. Never. Maybe you would have dated more if you complimented girls on their doll-like hair. Don’t be a hater, Dad.) – Daughter

It was with a slight sense of bemusement that I reviewed Daughter’s post recounting her random bar-hopping, anti-social, non-conversational interaction activities during a recent evening out with “the crowd.”

Trust me, I frequently witness the endless prepatory steps that eventually lead to her departure into the dark Southern California night for places not frequented by me and, quite frankly, I’ve never seen so much effort exerted by someone who seems to increasingly resemble Bettie Page, no matter what she wears.

In contrast, whenever I head out for a “special evening,” the usual critique thrown in my direction is, “You’re really going to wear that, Dad?”  Well, I figure I can get away with almost any outfit if I’m covered with my Trusty Turkish Friend.

What interested me most about Daughter’s post-modernistic tale is how dramatically different it is than my own experience at the same age many years ago.

Though not destitute, I think it would be fair to characterize my financial situation in college as dramatically challenged.  No, I didn’t walk four miles through snow in my bare feet to go to school, but I was known to make surreptitious after-hours sweeps through some of the academic halls to grab empty soda bottles so that I could return them for the deposit money.  I did have a car (the actively rusting shell of a Chevy Vega), but I never remember having a full tank of gas.  I do remember, however, asking my soccer teammates to pitch in for fuel on Saturday mornings before heading out to the field to play.  Between the four of us, we usually managed to scrape together something in the neighborhood of $1.37, which bought enough gas to transport us out and back with about ten cents to spare.

Many times I skipped the team lunch at McDonald’s because buying a meal there was a huge deal for me financially.  It was tight.

So, work with me here.  Given that sort of draconian revenue situation, Daughter’s “modern clubbing” was never a real option back then.  It would have required both self-confidence and shekals — I possessed neither. 

Instead, a big Friday night consisted of getting together with a couple of my friends (no girlfriends yet for us losers), walking over to the Student Union, and bowling a couple of games, maybe augmented with some foosball (look it up in Wiki, children).  I seem to remember the cost per student in the bowling alley was all of 25 cents per game.  I could swing that.

There were a couple of key elements, however, that made the night more enjoyable and less costly.  First, we always designated a “beer frame” in each game, the loser of which was on the hook for a round later.  So it was especially important that one of the friends in the group was more pathetic than the rest of us at bowling — usually not too hard to orchestrate.

Second, we walked everywhere.  Remember walking, kids?  No car, no ga$, no DUI, no problem.  It made things infinitely easier.

Third, our favorite pub sat just off campus, and was usually fairly empty since it was primarily frequented by graduate students and other assorted freaks of nature.  I would never describe it as popular.  Homely, yes.  Typically no girls, bummer.  But it was a jewel.

Why?  The main attraction was 32oz draft beer served in wax-lined paper cups.  These drinking vessels apparently went the way of disco in the early 80s, but they were common back then.  No, it wasn’t actually the cup itself that was attractive.  But every successive refill cost ten cents less than the previous drink.  What an absolutely marvelous marketing idea, and we took full advantage of it.  Plus, this place had a small grill behind the bar, and they could cook up some good eats cheaply.  To order anything, small pads of paper were strategically scattered on the bar, and you wrote out what you wanted on a slip (using a real pen or pencil) and then handed it to the barkeeper.

No iPhones, no texts, no Twitter, no Stinkin’ Facebook, no menus (a blackboard above the grill listed the available fare), no iPads — just a lot of “no’s.”  Real basic.

So, for about three bucks and change (I usually split the cost of food with a friend), it was a full night out, and I would wander home in the wee hours with a full (and slightly queasy tummy) and a warm buzz. 

Today, I spend about the same amount during a typical visit to Starbucks, even without buying one of Daughter’s favorite “foo-foo” drinks (that I have no idea how to order). 

True, these nights of yore featured little of the bar-scene give and take that, apparently, makes up the bulk of Daughter’s forays into the night.  But I also avoided the resulting contretemps such ventures seem to generate for her. 

In comparison, my experience was somewhat boring and never, ever featured Lesbian Christmas Bingo Dancing (LCBD), but it suited me just fine and reinforced that all-encompassing maxim of my life:  Never be ashamed of what you can afford. 

Believe me, I’ve got plenty of other things to be ashamed about, but I’ll keep those secrets between me and Bettie Page. 

- Dad

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